Flash Floods


Related to the recent cold Luxembourgish breeze, last IATE term of the week was “Indian Summer”, with the hope for a warm week between October and November. (If you missed it, check it out here.) Anyway, due to some unexpected and rather spectacular incidents, like the intense floods across Western European countries (as it happened for instance in Italy, Ireland and Portugal), and a typhoon and a volcano explosion in China and Indonesia respectively, we have chosen a weather-related topic again. But with a different, and less optimistic perspective. We are talking in fact generally about geohazards, risky environment issues. So “flash flood” is the word chosen for this week’s IATE term. A thing that is not hard to connect with the undeniable climate changes caused by human activities all over the world: rising temperatures, increasing anthropization and a general climate turmoil, that leads to uncontrolled and unusual, tragic phenomena. A rather “fashionable” matter these days, we all should look at with some concern.


A “geohazard” is a neologism that resembles the better known “biohazard”. It depicts a harmful event caused by the earth, for instance an earthquake, a tsunami, or a volcano explosion. That’s exactly what happened in Indonesia, on October 14, where the rather inactive volcano in Mount Sinabung suddenly exploded causing panic, a massive ash cloud and forcing hundreds of people to flee their home. It’s quite a good example of a geohazard, which can, by the way, in other cases, be caused by intense human activity as perforation, shale extraction and others. For instance some researches commissioned by the American Congress underlined a proven link with superficial earthquakes and the most recent technologies adopted by the oil companies.

We checked again the useful Glossary of Meteorology for a definition about “flash flood“, which is: “Flood that rises and falls quite rapidly with little or no advance warning, usually as the result of intense rainfall over a relatively small area. Some possible causes are ice jams, dam failure, and topography.” According to the definition, excluding the first two causes, more rare and peculiar, the main source of them seems to be topographic. It’s the case of this recent phenomenon registered in Lisbon. The city suffered a violent incident, being literally submerged by an extremely heavy raining of a relatively short duration, which caused a rare and wide inundation in the whole city, of almost 80mm of water at its highest pitch. A general panic did spread through the city, with hundreds of phone calls to the firemen. The same happened in Genoa and a few other Italian cities, with a death toll of three victims. A sudden flood engulfed the cities in northwestern and eastern Italy with practically no time, for the inhabitants, to repair and protect their houses.

flash-flood IATE

Another intresting rather new word to know, related to geohazards, is landfall. It is a sea storm, particularly, an intense rainfall originated in the ocean that hits coasts and gulfs afterwards. As mentioned before, a landfall is a rather new entry in newspapers, whose usual meaning in nautics is “the act of sighting or nearing land,  from the sea” but whose latest meaning indicates a typhoon or twister originated in the sea of extended proportion that basically drowns ports and gulfs, and whose disruptive force carries with it signs of destruction and remains of its action. According to newspapers and direct sources, a landfall was predicted in China a few weeks ago. Typhoon Fung-Wong was expected to cause landfall on the coast, and tens of thousands of residents along the coast in Zhejiang province have been evacuated.

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By Matteo Poles

Social Media Specialist

Communication Trainee at TermCoord